Spider-Man today remains one of the world’s most recognisable and culturally significant superheroes. Portrayed for years in comics, TV, film, and, of course, video games, Spider-Man has received nearly universal critical and commercial success in almost all forms of entertainment. Insomniac Games, praised developer of the likes of Ratchet And Clank and Sunset Overdrive, set out to continue this trend of greatness, and sought to create a game that would define what makes a Spider-Man video game for years to come, in what is another PS4 exclusive to go alongside the many great ones we’ve had in recent times (God Of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, I’m looking at you!). Did they succeed?
Absolutely! Spider-Man PS4 is yet another hit for Sony’s flagship console, Insomniac delivering on almost every level to create an open-world game that is exceptional in nearly every way.
“Video games have scarcely ever brought me to tears before”
The game’s plot revolves around an experienced Peter Parker, and what really sets Spider-Man PS4 apart from the many other Spider-Man video games of years gone by, is the intense connection and empathy for Peter that we just don’t see so much of in video games in general, let alone the standard Spider-Man tale. Video games have scarcely ever brought me to tears before (Naughty Dog you’ve got me close), but there were several saddening moments within Spider-Man that left me on the brink of crying, and for that I must congratulate the stellar storytelling that Insomniac commits too. The game’s emotional weight is supplemented by gameplay that is immensely satisfying, and makes for a game that is ludicrously entertaining.
“Propelling between the skyscrapers in that game was exhilarating”
Web-swinging is essential to any Spider-Man game, and is part of what made the classic Spider-Man 2 so effective. Propelling between the skyscrapers in that game was exhilarating, and Insomniac has managed to provide us with an experience here that certainly matches – and if not then usurps – the mechanics in that classic. A variety of new button combinations, when mastered, allow for a traversal system that is fluid, flowing, and has depth for those who want it.
“You truly feel like the web-head”
The combat has echoes of the Batman Arkham games, but what Insomniac does brilliantly is interlace this familiar style with layers of complexity that allow for an experience exclusive to Spider-Man. Gravity-defying physics allows for physical encounters that never fail to entertain, and this is combined with a number of web-based attacks that make you truly feel like the web-head. There are enough enemy types to keep one enthralled for the most part, though a few more wouldn’t have gone amiss to better challenge our favourite wallcrawler.
Speaking of wallcrawling, this is an area where I was disappointed. Insomniac’s focus has certainly been on wall-running, with wallcrawling slow and tedious. This goes alongside a camera angle that is either hit-or-miss – I recall one particularly frustrating segment on the side of a skyscraper attempting to evade lasers, where the camera made the task a chore.
“Crawling directly above an enemy you are set to silently take down is endlessly satisfying”
Further negatives include the game’s stealth system. Ironically, wallcrawling is at its best here; crawling directly above an enemy you are set to silently take down is endlessly satisfying. Where the game suffers is the ease of many of these segments. Tapping square allows for a web-takedown that pulls an enemy up to you, and this remains strangely overpowered throughout the game.
Rarely did I encounter a situation where I was forced to think on my feet, forcing me into more challenging methods of taking defeating foes. There was no real punishment for being discovered, either. Doing so would initiate a standard combat encounter, for guns pose only a limited threat, as Spider-Man is able to dodge most shots.
My disappointment with the stealth system continues in the very forced and monotonous missions where you play as Mary Jane or Miles Morales. Whilst their characters are well fleshed out and acted as further essential connections to the wider Spider-Man universe, I found that their segments really slowed the game down, the pace reduced from the exhilarating web swinging to slow do-not-be-detected-at-all-costs sections, where actually attacking your enemies is impossible in all but a couple of sections.
As much as I’m critical of the stealth mechanics, the environments such encounters are housed in are creatively designed. Such well-crafted environments go hand-in-hand with superb graphics, and I had no issues with the 30 FPS frame rate. As is seemingly customary with all the great PS4 exclusives of late, there is a photo mode, that I’m sure the more artistic among us will have fun playing around with.
“I was always excited whenever I had the opportunity to unlock a new Spider-Man costume”
The one thing left to ask is how long will the game keep you engaged for? I spent around twenty-five hours finishing the main story, which I supplemented with a number of side missions here and there. These side missions varied in quality, but their rewards were great: I was always excited whenever I had the opportunity to unlock a new Spider-Man costume and completing side missions also gifts you with the ability to level up your various gadgets, which was always rewarding.
All in all, Insomniac have produced a game that looks set to be the benchmark for Spider-Man video games – and superhero video games in general – for years to come. This is extremely exciting, for if this is the standard that superhero game developers have to meet from now on, then us fans look to a future where we are going to be endlessly spoilt.
Featured Image courtesy of Sony Official Facebook Page.